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"JFK Revisited" Misleads by Putting Words in Kennedy's Mouth, Part Two

Updated: Jun 7

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, greatly misleads its viewers on JFK's attitudes towards the CIA.

Screen shot from JFK Revisited regarding downsizing of the CIA


Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (1:33:33)


David Talbot: Jack Kennedy did stand firm. He did not send in the military, he did not make it into an even bigger global crisis than it already was. Kennedy is just furious. He knows he's been lied to, deceived by his senior military and intelligence advisors. He announces that the Agency is going to be downsized, and he vows, famously, he tells friends, he's going to shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind. It wasn't just the Bay of Pigs that angered President Kennedy, when it came to the CIA. In that same month, in April of 1961, he was also being lied to about a coup in France. A military coup that was aimed at overthrowing President Charles de Gaulle, one of our strongest allies.


Did President Kennedy actually say that he was going to shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind?


The answer is perhaps. There are no contemporaneous sources for the quote. All we have is a New York Times article from April 25, 1966, "C.I.A.: Maker of Policy, or Tool," by a team of correspondents including Tom Wicker, John Finney, Max Frankel, and E.W. Kenworthy. The article noted:

"And President Kennedy. as the enormity of the Bay of Pigs disaster came home to him, said to one of the highest officials of his Administration that he wanted "to splinter the C.I.A. in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds."

Rather than saying that Kennedy said this to friends, it would be more accurate to say that the New York Times claimed in 1966 that Kennedy had said this to a (high-ranking), (unnamed), subordinate. There is a difference.


You can find a good history of the supposed quote here:

The phrase “splinter into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds” actually dates back to at least the early 19th century and has decidedly religious origins. You can find versions of the phrase in Methodist sermons from 1819, in letters from clergy of the 1840s, and in fiction of the early 20th century.

Is the quote reliable? A bit of humor:

All we do know is that this could be another game of Telephone, not unlike the way we see quotes morph on the internet today. And as Abraham Lincoln once told his secretary Fakesy Kennedy, quotes from a third party after you’re dead aren’t the most reliable sources.

The same New York Times article also said:

The critics shrug aside the fact that President Kennedy, after the most rigorous inquiry into the agency's affairs, methods and problems after the Bay of Pigs, did not "splinter" it after all, and did not recommend Congressional supervision.

Arthur Schlesinger, in his book, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, was measured in his evaluation of the leadership of the CIA: (page 492)

None of this is to suggest that the CIA constituted, in the title of a popular exposé, an “invisible government” or that its influence was always, or often, reactionary and sinister. In my experience its leadership was politically enlightened and sophisticated. Not seldom CIA representatives took a more liberal line in White House meetings than their counterparts from State.

The Kennedys actually chewed out Richard Bissell, CIA Deputy Director for Plans, for inaction on Cuba: Here is an excerpt from the Church Committee Interim Report:


Did JFK cut the budget of the CIA by 20%? This figure comes from Arthur Schlesinger's book: (page 492)

"The Agency itself suffered from doubt and gloom after Cuba, and it was feared that drastic measures would cause total demoralization. Instead, Kennedy moved quietly to cut the CIA budget in 1962 and again in 1963, aiming at a 20 per cent reduction by 1966."

Because of the secrecy of the CIA's budget, we can't be sure just how much JFK cut the CIA budget. It certainly appears that the 20 percent number was a goal.


The budget for the CIA in 1963 was $550 million. I am not sure if the budget decreased in 1963 from 1962.


The CIA budget appears to have also declined in the early years of the Johnson administration:

Some of the decrease of the CIA's budget that Schlesinger talks about for 1962 was because JFK moved some functions to the Department of Defense.


New York Times, April 29, 1961


National Security Council Action Memorandum 57, dated June 28, 1961, transferred some paramilitary operations to the Pentagon:

When John McCone became the new Director of the CIA in October 1961, Kennedy sent a memo outlining some changes:


Kennedy was not that interested in any sort of oversight:


Here is what Tim Weiner, in his book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, said about John and Robert Kennedy: (page 180)

In his wrath after the Bay of Pigs, John Kennedy first wanted to destroy the CIA. Then he took the agency's clandestine service out of its death spiral by handing the controls to his brother. It was one of the least wise decisions of his presidency. Robert F. Kennedy, thirty-five years old, famously ruthless, fascinated with secrecy, took command of the most sensitive covert operations of the United States. The two men unleashed covert action with an unprecedented intensity. Ike had undertaken 170 major CIA covert operations in eight years. The Kennedys launched 163 major covert operations in less than three.

Kennedy revamped covert action. He set up the Special Group, or the 303 Committee, to oversee the clandestine service with McGeorge Bundy as its chairman: (page 181)

The members were McCone, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and senior deputies from Defense and State. But until very late in the Kennedy administration it was left to the CIA's covert operators to decide whether to consult with the Special Group. There were more than a few operations that McCone [Director of the CIA after Dulles] and the Special Group knew little or nothing about.
In November 1961, in the greatest secrecy, John and Bobby Kennedy created a new planning cell for covert action, the Special Group (Augmented). It was RFK's outfit, and it had one mission: eliminating Castro.

The Kennedys were serious about getting rid of Castro, and they started Operation Mongoose: (page 185)

The Kennedys did not want to hear that [that the CIA had limited intelligence on Cuba]. They wanted swift, silent sabotage to overthrow Castro. "Let's get the hell on with it," the attorney general barked. "The President wants some action, right now." Helms saluted smartly and got the hell on with it. He created a new freestanding task force to report to Ed Lansdale and Robert Kennedy. He assembled a team from all over the world, creating the CIA's largest peacetime intelligence operation to date, with some six hundred CIA officers in and around Miami, almost five thousand CIA contractors, and the third largest navy in the Caribbean, including submarines, patrol boats, coast guard cutters, seaplanes, and Guantanamo Bay for a base. Some "nutty schemes" against Fidel were proposed by the Pentagon and the White House, Helms said. These included blowing up an American ship in Guantanamo Harbor and faking a terrorist attack against an American airliner to justify a new invasion.

Here is a memo from October 1962:

Note the emphasis on sabotage:

The Attorney General [Robert Kennedy] opened the meeting by saying that higher authority is concerned about progress on the MONGOOSE program and feels that more priority should be given to trying to mount sabotage operations.

If all of this is an example of "scattering to the wind" then it is surely time to update the definition.


Researcher Tracy Parnell covers much of the same ground with a few important links about JFK using the CIA in Laos.



Previous Relevant Blog Posts on JFK Revisited


"JFK Revisited" Misleads by Putting Words in Kennedy's Mouth...

David Talbot claims that JFK told the French Ambassador that he was not in full control of his entire government. There is no evidence he ever said that.


"JFK Revisited" Misleads on Supposed CIA Support of the 1961 Coup Attempt in France

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary claims the CIA supported the 1961 coup attempt against French President Charles de Gaulle in 1961. The only thing missing is evidence.


Max Boot on Oliver Stone's Lies

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Steve Roe Blog Posts on JFK Revisited


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